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CoCo Bubble Tea in Hot Water over Pro-Hong Kong Text on Receipts

Boycotting bubble tea? The popular CoCo Tea company is not so popular on Weibo this week.

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One of China’s most popular bubble tea brands is in hot water after one of its Hong Kong shops included an encouraging message to Hong Kong people on its receipts amidst ongoing demonstrations. The company’s apologies are not sufficient, many netizens say.

Popular milk tea company CoCo (CoCo都可) is under fire in mainland China for displaying the text “Go Hong Kong People!” (or: “Add Oil, Hongkongers!”) on the receipts of one of its shops in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong.

The receipt, dated June 16, started making its rounds on Chinese social media on August 6. Many take it as a sign that CoCo supports Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

CoCo also triggered controversy for supposedly listing ‘Taiwan’ as a country in its website’s list of countries where the brand operates, separate from ‘China’.

Some netizens are now vowing to boycott the brand for allegedly supporting both Hong Kong protesters and Taiwan independence.

CoCo is a global bubble tea brand that first opened in Taipei in 1997. Over the past two decades, CoCo has opened over 2000 stores worldwide with locations in countries such as the US, UK, Thailand, Korea, and Australia. It is one of the most popular milk tea chains in mainland China.

On August 9, the tea shop released a statement concerning the controversy. The hashtag “CoCo Statement” (#coco声明#) became the most-searched hashtag on Weibo on Friday, attracting 300 million views.

CoCo stated that the receipt in the Wanchai district shop was altered by the staff of this shop, and that their business is now suspended.

It further alleged that the screenshots of the ‘Taiwan’ listing circulating on social media are actually fake. They do not come from their official website, CoCo stated.

The company also added that “the Hong Kong region is an inseparable part of the People’s Republic of China.”

At time of writing, the official website of the CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice brand was not accessible.

CoCo is not the first bubble tea shop to trigger controversy this week. Another company, Yifang Fruit Tea, faced online backlash when it closed one of its Hong Kong shops for a day and put up a sign that said: “Stand together with Hong Kongers”.

Many big milk tea brands are Taiwanese; pearl milk tea or bubble tea was first invented in Taiwan in 1988 and has since become an important part of Taiwanese food culture. Over the past decade, the bubble tea craze has also blown over to mainland China (read more here).

Bubble Tea

The Guardian reported on August 8 that the Yifang Fruit Tea controversy also spread to two other bubble tea brands.

In response to the issue, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen posted a picture of flavored tea on social media, writing that “China’s political power has invaded into various nonpolitical areas” and that “for people living in a society with freedom and democracy, we need to stay on high alert for issues like this.”

Meanwhile, on Weibo, many netizens are not too satisfied with CoCo’s apologies and demand that the brand also shares its statement on Twitter and Instagram – not just on Chinese social media.

Others complain that the company did not use an official seal for its apology statement, and have not indicated how it will handle this controversy.

But there are also those who say this supposed scandal is all a fuss over nothing. “Essentially, there’s nothing wrong with them encouraging Hong Kong people,” one commenter writes.

“Boycotting the stores in China will only hurt the position of Chinese franchise owners,” some Weibo users argue.

This incident shows some similarities to another controversy that occurred in 2018 involving the Taiwanese company 85°C Bakery Café. When president Tsai Ing-wen paid a visit to a Los Angeles chain of the café during her United States trip, mainland netizens accused the company of supporting Taiwan independence.

To read more about general discussions on Chinese social media regarding the Hong Kong protests, check our latest here.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Celebs

China’s Livestreaming Queen Viya Goes Viral for Fraud and Fines, Ordered to Pay $210 Million

Viya, the Queen of Taobao, is under fire for tax evasion.

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Viya, one of China’s most well-known and successful live streamers, is trending today for allegedly committing tax fraud by deliberately providing false information and concealing personal income.

The ‘Taobao queen’ Viya (薇娅, real name Huang Wei 黄薇) reportedly committed tax fraud from 2019 to 2020, during which she evaded some 643 million yuan ($100 million) in taxes and also failed to pay an additional 60 million yuan ($9.4 million) in taxes.

The Hangzhou Tax Administration Office reportedly ordered Viya to pay an amount of over 1.3 billion yuan ($210 million) in taxes, late payment fees, and other fines. On Monday, a hashtag related to the issue had garnered over 600 million views on Weibo (#薇娅偷逃税被追缴并处罚款13.41亿元#).

Viya made headlines in English-language media earlier this year when she participated in a promotional event for Single’s Day on October 20th and managed to sell 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) in merchandise in just one live streaming session together with e-commerce superstar Lipstick King.

China has a booming livestreaming e-commerce market, and Viya is one of the top influencers to have joined the thriving online sales industry years ago. When the e-commerce platform Taobao started their Taobao Live initiative (mixing online sales with livestreams), Viya became one of their top sellers as millions of viewers starting joining her channel every single day (she livestreams daily at 7.30 pm).

With news about Viya’s tax fraud practices and enormous fines going viral on Chinese social media, many are attacking the top influencer, as her tax fraud case seems to be even bigger than that of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (范冰冰).

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing went “missing” for months back in 2018 when she was at the center of a tax evasion scandal. The actress was ordered to pay taxes and fines worth hundreds of millions of yuan over tax evasion. The famous actress eventually paid approximately $128,5 million in taxes and fines, less than Viya was ordered to pay this month.

Like Fan Bingbing, Viya will also not be held criminally liable if the total amount is paid in time. This was the first time for the e-commerce star to be “administratively punished” for tax evasion.

Around 5pm on Monday, Viya posted a public apology on her Weibo account, saying she takes on full responsibility for the errors she made: “I was wrong, and I will bear all the consequences for my mistakes. I’m so sorry!”

It is not clear if she will still do her daily live stream later today and how this news will impact Viya’s future career.

Update: Vaya’s live stream was canceled.

Update 2: Vaya’s husband also issued an apology on Weibo.

Update 3: Taobao has suspended or ‘frozen’ (“冻结”) Vaya’s livestreaming channel. Her Taobao store is still online.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Fashion & Beauty

Chinese Fashion Brand Peacebird Accused of Plagiarism (Again!)

The Chinese fashion brand Peacebird turns out to be a copycat.

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The Chinese fashion brand Peacebird (太平鸟) is trending on Chinese social media this week for its alleged involvement in various cases of plagiarism. The brand is accused of producing exact copies of garments designed by other labels. Hashtag “Peacebird Repeatedly Accused of Plagiarism” (#太平鸟多次被控抄袭#) drew in over 230 million views on Weibo.

In late October of this year, fashion blogger and small fashion brand @SOS_SEAMSTRESS called out Peacebird on Weibo for plagiarizing one of their designs.

Besides changing the material used for the garment, the Peacebird outfit is an exact copy of the design by SOS Seamstress – even the buttons and pockets and other details are exactly the same. The price, however, is five times higher.

Left: the Peacebird garment. Right: the original design by SOS Seamstress.

Left, Peacebird. Right, SOS Seamstress design.

SOS Seamstress condemned Peacebird for claiming to have their own original fashion designs, produced by their in-house design team, while actually stealing from others and completely disregarding the rights of domestic local designers.

It is the fifth time this year that the fashion house is accused of plagiarism. Beijing Business News reported that other brands, including Mostwantedlab and Annomundi, previously also accused Peacebird of stealing their designs. In February of this year, the artist @LOONY_FACE also publicly exposed Peacebird for using his designs without his permission.

Left Annomundi, right Peacebird.

Left Annomundi, right Peacebird.

Chinese netizens have further researched other clothing brands that Peacebird allegedly plagiarized, including UNALLOYED, Moussy, Off-White, FREI, Maje, and other domestic and international brands.

Design by Maje (left), and the dress by Peacebird (right).

Various Chinese media outlets, including Beijing Business News, call it noteworthy that Peacebird’s response to these plagiarism accusations is not an apology but a simple statement that “original brands can go through legal channels.” Meanwhile, the company has allegedly also taken down the designs that have been pointed out as copies.

Peacebrand is a fashion retail brand established in Ningbo in 1996. The company also holds various smaller brands such as LEDIN (乐町) and Material Girl. The fashion company claims to have approximately 12,000 employees in its stores, headquarters and factories. In 2018, it made its first debut at New York Fashion Week.

Among all the people commenting on this issue, there are many who think that although ‘borrowing’ popular designs has always been a part of the fashion industry, doing an exact copy is uncommon and unacceptable – especially for such a large company as Peacebird. “Shameless!”, multiple commenters say.

“I once bought an embroidered garment at Peacebird’s, and then later saw the same design from a brand I didn’t know. I thought it was copied from Peacebird, but now I think it might’ve been the other way around,” one person writes.

“I’m shocked that the national brand Peacebird would plagiarize while waving the flag of originality,” another commenter says.

“Plagiarizing one time, ok, but plagiarizing so many times and then even doing one on one copies, how can they run a business?!”

There are also those who hope that the current focus on Peacebird’s alleged plagiarism will lead to more attention for smaller, original brands in China.

To read more about the recent surge in popularity of domestic brands in China, see: “Chinese Fashion First: Consumer Nationalism and ‘China Chic’.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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